Victory Gardens Theater announced this afternoon that it's doubled the size of its current Playwrights Ensemble, adding Luis Alfaro, Ike Holter, Naomi Iizuka and Laura Schellhardt to its roster of affiliated writers.
VG artistic director Chay Yew revamped the longstanding Playwrights Ensemble program after his arrival in 2011, making appointments to the ensemble a seven-year residency for the development of new works, and transitioning the established ensemble writers (Claudia Allen, Lonnie Carter, Steve Carter, Gloria Bond Clunie, Dean Corrin, Nilo Cruz, Joel Drake Johnson, John Logan, Nicholas Patricca, Douglas Post, James Sherman, Charles Smith, Jeffrey Sweet and Kristine Thatcher) to alumni status. The first wave of new ensemble members, appointed in 2012, were Philip Dawkins, Marcus Gardley, Samuel D. Hunter and Tanya Saracho; they too will shift to the alumni group at the end of their residencies in 2019.
Alfaro has already cultivated an association with Yew and Victory Gardens, with a 2012 production of his Oedipus El Rey and the 2013 world premiere of Mojada. Iizuka, currently the head of the MFA playwriting program at the University of California–San Diego, has been represented on Chicago stages in recent productions at TimeLine Theatre Company (Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West) and First Floor Theater (Polaroid Stories).
Schellhardt, who heads the undergrad playwriting program at Northwestern University, was a 2013–14 season member of the Goodman Theatre's Playwrights Unit. Holter, one of Chicago's fastest rising young writers, has made my year-end top ten lists twice already, with 2012's Hit the Wall and 2014's Exit Strategy.